Burning Witches Interview

Nuclear Blast

The Swiss heavy metal group Burning Witches are set to release their third full-length album, Dance with the Devil. Although she appeared first on their Wings of Steel EP and single last year, this will be the first full-length appearance by singer Laura Guldemond. In the following interview for Heavy Music Headquarters, Guldemond discusses making Dance with the Devil.

Darren Cowan: When did you start writing Dance with the Devil?
Laura Guldemond: I learned the set list. We were done with Wings of Steel. We were done with a few festival gigs. When we were a little less busy, we wrote the songs in between all the other stuff we were doing, we were a little less busy in the middle of the festival season, and then we wrote it. Then, I started to record around August. We took about two months with the writing process. We did the last bit in October, just the details: mixing and master, maybe the master was a little bit later.

Where did you record the album?
We were at Little Creek Studios in Switzerland with Pulver (V.O.). He’s worked with a lot of old school thrash bands, so he knows how to do the old school sound, and he’s helped a lot of bands with the more modern sound. He knows how to work with both sounds. For us, he found a middle ground. We have a lot of the old school stuff in there, and we’re just playing around with a mix.

How does this album compare to your last two? You weren’t on the last two, but you sing those songs, too.
All of the albums have diversity in them, but probably this album is more diverse. We didn’t take in account any restrictions, except that it has to be ‘80s and it has to be melodic. It has to remind you of classic heavy metal. That’s what we had in mind. I think you can find a lot of influences like King Diamond, Manowar, Judas Priest, and old school thrash metal bands like Kreator. We don’t consider ourselves a glam metal band, but I think there is a little bit of glam. I think you can recognize that in some parts.

There is the melodic, old school heavy metal in there. It’s slightly more diverse than the other albums, which to me makes it very cool because I don’t get bored listening to this album. Every song has a little bit of a surprise. We have the witches themes, of course. What you would expect is there. It’s slightly more different because it’s slightly more diverse. Some people will think it sounds different with my voice, which is a bit of personal taste, I think. Yes, it’s different because I have a different voice, but for the rest it’s basically the same.

Do you use backing vocals or did you just layer your vocals?
I layer a lot of my vocals. We have some group shouts. You have to listen closely, but there is a little bit of J (Jeanine Grob, bass), a little bit of Lala (Frischknecht, drums) and a little bit of Romana (Kalkuhl, guitar) in there. Sonia (Nusselder, guitar) wasn’t there at the time, sadly. She also has to come from the Netherlands. That’s why you don’t hear Sonia on there, but you do hear the rest. It’s difficult to hear, I think, but it is there.

There are different ranges. You have your typical singing style, but there are also some growls.
Yeah, there are growls in there. That’s me, too. For “Lucid Nightmare,” we have some songs that have effects, so it sounds very creepy. It’s actually an octave lower.

You made videos of two songs, the title track and “Sea of Lies.” Tell us about making those videos. Why did you choose those tracks as singles?
Personally, I think it’s always a hard choice to figure out which ones you want as singles. We think “Sea of Lies” is cool because it’s more personal. Some people just take advantage of other people feeling like they could do better. It’s everywhere in the media. It’s why people want to buy makeup. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be anything that makes you feel like you have to be better. It’s people that expect you to do things because you can only be a better person if you do this. There are religions that what you to do that. There are groups of people or there could be employees that want you to be available all day. They just want to manipulate you into giving that time. It has a lot to do with a power play. Some of us had personal experience with that. That’s why I think it’s a cool song. It’s personal, that’s what makes it difficult, but we all thought it was a good song. That’s why that one is a video.

“Dance with the Devil” is very witchy. We wanted to keep the witchy theme. “Dance with the Devil” is pretty cool because it’s about Walpurgisnacht. People would believe the veil between the spiritual world and human world would be thinner than normal, so you could make contact with spirits, with the evil spirits. They were afraid that when witches would be partying in the Brocken in the Harz Mountains of Germany they would get lost when they go near the witches. They would make noise and stuff like that to get rid of the evil spirits, but the witches would actually party with the evil spirits. They would dance with the devil, have fun, and make people disappear. I thought it was a cool theme, a cool legend. Sonia and I actually visited that place because we were going back from Rock Hard. We checked it out. It was kind of fun. You can visit the place, actually. That’s what the song is about. For us witches, it’s about having fun and going for it. I also found a lot of literature about it.

There is a guy who wrote, his name is Goethe (also the name of trails in the Harz Mountains). He wrote a really cool story about a guy who wanted to find wisdom. For some reason, I found out about Odin doing the same thing. He hanged himself from a tree and it’s believed the tree he hanged himself from has hallucinogenic properties in the leaves. If it burned, and also the witches around the fire, it would put you in a trance. In his case, he was hanging there, getting the visions and getting all the knowledge. That’s why I say in the second verse I sing, “A Wise Man.” I thought that was cool. I like the crazy stories and I like to make up my own versions. That’s basically what the others did. They made their own stories with the legends that were on hand. I felt it was a cool idea, let’s do the same. That’s why it’s a story with all the side stories in it. Of course, “Dance with the Devil” is also a saying in English that has a bit of a dangerous feeling because people could get lost. I really like that about it. I think for the album cover it was a cool title. It was also cool to make it into a video clip. It’s just a fun song. I hope people in life will have this feeling of having a good time.

“Black Magic” stands out as the only ballad on the album. It has a W.A.S.P. “The Flame” kind of feel. Tell me about writing this song and how it fits into the album.
Yes, that’s one of my inspirations. Maybe not my biggest inspiration, but it was one of the bands I started listening to when I started listening to metal. I started with Within Temptation. Probably because it’s in the “W” there were a lot of record shops still around. If you look for a record shop in the Netherlands now, it’s very difficult. There are not that many left anymore. I looked at the “W” and I saw W.A.S.P. next to Within Temptation. I listened to it because I liked to pick some out of the shelves and listen to them. I really loved it. The first album I listened to was Dying for the World. Then, I started listening to more of them. I really loved his style. It’s a bit dark, but it has a lot of energy. I thought it was really cool. It was inspired by the W.A.S.P. ballad style if you want to call it like that.

You cover the Manowar song “Battle Hymn.” Ross the Boss, the guitar player who appeared on the Manowar song makes a guest appearance. Also, Michael Lepond appears. Did you know them before contacting them about playing on the song? How did this all come about?
Romana was in contact with them. She’s a big fan of Manowar, so it makes sense. For her, they are one of the biggest inspirations. That’s why we chose this ‘80s song of Manowar to cover. It’s really cool they helped out with those solo and bass parts. Now we are going to tour with them. We go in April. Since he played the solo, we hope he would like to join us on stage for the solo, or maybe not.

This is your first full-length album with Burning Witches. How did you come into the band?
They were looking for a new singer. Sonia knew me because we played some music together before. She was thinking I fit really well because I like old school metal. My clothes were already kind of fitting, almost. Although I was experimenting with a lot of styles, she also knew that I sometimes have this ‘80s style, so she thought I was an easy fit. She told the band. They were thinking the same thing, so they invited me to audition.

What band(s) were you involved with at the time?
At that time, I was in ShadowRise. That was my symphonic power metal band. We had some death metal influences with lots of neo-classical solo styles. I was having fun with that for a while. We had finished one album. We were about to write new material and then they contacted me. I was also thinking I was not in any band that toured a lot, so I was actually just looking for a 40-hour day job. Then they contacted me right before I got a 40-hour job. Now, I just have a flexible job which is kind of a funny story. They were just on time before I had said “You hired me, but now I have to go.”

I was into a lot of projects before that, too. I did some progressive stuff. I was in the Epic Rock Choir. Arjen Anthony Lucassen is a musical genius. He plays a lot of instruments. He writes really cool music. He really understands what he’s doing. He always has a lot of guest musicians and guest vocalists. He doesn’t play a lot of gigs because he doesn’t like to perform that much. It’s exceptional a lot of people around the world know this guy because he makes such good progressive metal. I was in the choir. It was really cool to be part of it. They did three or four gigs in Rotterdam in a big theater. I think 42 nationalities came to see it. It was really cool to be a part of. I don’t have much to say for the rest. I did some backing vocals for Robby Valentine. He’s a symphonic, ‘80s glam artist, I think.

What’s next for Burning Witches? Have you planned a tour or festival appearances?
We are doing Alcatraz. It’s with my southern neighbors in Belgium. I’m looking forward to that. We have a lot of cool festivals coming up you can look up on Nuclear Blast touring Burning Witches.

How do you feel about this tour with Ross The Boss?
I think it’s really cool. It’s mostly covering Western Europe, Scandinavia, everything around Germany, a little bit of Spain, and Italy. It’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun because it’s the new album. A lot of people will be curious to see it. It’s a good thing that we now go to those places. I would love to also go to more places. I hope it will be possible in autumn. We have a lot of people asking us in the U.S.A., but we need to find a really good opportunity to do it because it will cost a lot of money. Either someone has to pay us enough money so we don’t care and can come now, for sure, or we have to do a support show with a really good band. We just have to wait for the right opportunity.

(interview published March 6, 2020)

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